In and around Huế there are impressive sights of cultural and historical value. In the former imperial city of Huế, these include the citadel with the imperial palace and the Forbidden City as well as the Buddhist Thien Mu pagoda with monastery complex and garden. Outside of Huế there are interesting tombs of earlier emperors, mostly from the 18th and 19th centuries. Many of these attractions are on the Huong Giang, the Perfume River that flows through Huế.
The perfume flow seen from a hill
Citadel and Forbidden City
An important landmark of Huế is the citadel from the 19th century. The citadel was once the state in the city: the imperial residence of the Vietnamese Nguyen dynasty. The extensive complex is surrounded by a wide moat and an eleven-kilometer-long rampart-like stone wall. It includes the imperial city with gatehouse, palaces and temples as well as the forbidden purple city, the imperial residence. The architecture is based closely on traditional Chinese buildings. The model for the system was the Forbidden City in Beijing. The rules of geomancy, in Chinese: Fengshui, were strictly observed. During the Vietnam War, most of the buildings in the Imperial Palace and the Forbidden City were destroyed. The citadel has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993 and is gradually being rebuilt.
Many of the original 300 buildings are still in ruins. Nevertheless, a visit is worthwhile. The preserved or already restored palaces and temples, the imperial theater, the gatehouse, the gardens, ponds and bridges are well worth seeing. The names of the buildings, such as: “Gate of Humanity”, “Hall of Supreme Harmony”, “Bridge of Golden Water”, “Pavilion of Fresh Air” or “House of Five Generations” invite you to explore.
The citadel stands for the Vietnam of the imperial era, for pomp and splendor, but also for harmony and tranquility.
Thien Mu Pagoda
There are numerous temples and pagodas in Huế. The Thien Mu Pagoda is considered to be the most important. It is also a Buddhist monastery that was founded in 1601. The Thien Mu Pagoda is located about five kilometers from Huế on a hill on the northern bank of the Huong Giang.
Dragon boats in front of the Thien Mu Pagoda
At the entrance is the seven-story pagoda tower built in 1844, which is 21 meters high. The Thien Mu Pagoda is the tallest in Vietnam. If you arrive by boat, stairs lead to the entrance. In a pavilion next to the tower there is a 2,50 meter high, 3.285 kilo bronze bell that was cast for the pagoda in 1710. The main temple with a large Buddha statue and the residential buildings of the monks are located in the rear of the complex. Everything is surrounded by a beautiful garden and a high wall.
The car with which the monk Thich Quang Duc drove to Saigon in 1963 is exhibited in a garage in the side wing. There he burned himself to death in protest against the persecution of Buddhists by the dictatorial regime of the time. A photo in the car shows the self-immolation.
Imperial tombs of the Nguyen Dynasty
There are several huge tombs in the city and in the vicinity of Huế. The reason for this is the family ancestral cult, which is very important in Vietnam. Families even go into debt in order to give their deceased relatives an appropriate place after death.
The imperial tombs of the Vietnamese Nguyen dynasty are particularly lush and magnificent.
Minh Mang tomb
The Minh Mang tomb was built between 1840 and 1843. It is located 12 kilometers from Huế in a landscape park on Huong Giang. It covers an area of 28 hectares and is surrounded by a 1700 meter long protective wall. Minh Mang planned his tomb himself, but died a year before completion. His son completed the tomb.
Minh Mang's tomb is famous for its architectural design. It was built like a palace, only smaller. The buildings - gatehouse, reception building, temple, pavilion, courtyard - are arranged symmetrically along a 700 meter long center line. From a bird's eye view, the system looks like a human body. The emperor's tomb is “in the head” and is surrounded by a lake and a stone wall.
Among the imperial tombs in Huế, the Minh Mang tomb is the most impressive. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993.
Huong Giang - Perfume Flow
The Huong Giang flows through the middle of Huế. The river is said to have a very pleasant smell, which is why it got its name. The Huong Giang is traveled by dragon boats, which are pretty to look at because of their colorful decorations.
Dragon boat on the Huong Giang
With the dragon boats you can reach the sights lying outside the city on the river, for example the Thien Mu Pagoda or the Minh Mang tomb. But a boat tour along the small villages is also an option. On the southern side of the river there is a promenade that is ideal for a stroll. And every evening there is a small night market by the river.
Our shore excursion to Huế
During a cruise from Hong Kong to Singapore, our cruise ship Celebrity Millennium will anchor in the port of Chan May on February 9, 2018. We use the one-day stay to see the imperial city of Huế. We have booked a private tour from Germany with the local agency Eco Nature Travel. Our guide, our driver and a Chevrolet blazer are waiting for us at the pier in Chan May.
After 1 ¼ hours we reach Huế, 62 kilometers away. At Huong Giang, the Perfume River, we board a dragon boat and drive along the river. It's a hot day, a bit hazy, and very comfortable on the water.
We leave the dragon boat at the Thien Mu Pagoda. We visit the pagoda and the temple, look at the monks' accommodations and the beautiful garden.
Our driver picks us up at a side gate and takes us to the citadel, the historic residence of the emperors of the Nguyen dynasty. We visit the extensive facility. The gatehouse and the reception courtyard with stone elephants, horses, unicorns and mandarins are particularly impressive.
We have lunch in a garden restaurant not far from the citadel. The Vietnamese specialties are extremely tasty. And also nicely arranged, true to the motto: the eyes eat too. We also drink a regional beer.
Art form salad
Then we drive to the Minh Mang tomb. It is located outside of Huế on Huong Giang, we need about 25 minutes by limousine. The tomb is built like a palace, only smaller: gatehouse, reception building, work room, reading pavilion and so on.
It's time to get back to the ship. The route is beautiful: rice fields next to the road, water buffalo and graves in the fields, mountains in the background; everything is green. Life happens on and off the street: there are lots of mopeds, lots of small shops and markets. The last part of the route we drive on a country road along the lagoon.
We really enjoyed the tour. Our tour guide impressed with her extensive knowledge of the country and its people. She explained all the sights in detail. The driver drove safely and with concentration and stopped whenever we wanted to take photos. And the car was comfortable and convenient. We paid US $ 102 per person, including entrance fees, food and drinks. We can recommend the tour at any time.
Update January 2021